What I Wish Kenyans Knew About Us

Happy 3 months of living in Kenya to us. God is doing great things in our lives here, constantly drawing us closer to Him and teaching us many valuable lessons. We for sure aren’t in America anymore. But Jesus is near to us, probably closer here than when we were there. As we’ve been adjusting and trying to merge with our culture I’ve come across some things that I wish every Kenyan I met knew so I thought I would share those things here.

First and foremost, our purpose here is to serve God through caring for the orphans and widows, supporting local indigenous pastors and anything else He (God) calls us to do. Jeff and I have had a heart for orphans for a long time. I’ve kind of always known I would adopt even before I fully understood what adoption was. Of course once we were able to adopt it really opened our eyes to the huge need out there, therefore deepening our passion for orphans. I have always been drawn to babies and kids so my passion for orphans doesn’t surprise me at all, but I am surprised that God has us here in Kenya living this life and serving Him in this way.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

Swahili isn’t easy for this Momma. I’m trying, I promise. And one day I might actually be able to communicate more than just a basic greeting, but not yet. I wish so badly that I could just freely communicate with you in your language, but Swahili is so hard for me. Please be patient with me, I love living here and want to be considered “one of you” one day. I want to have you over to my home, share chai with you and learn all about you and your life and share my life and my family with you. Relationships are important to me. I don’t just want to be the muzungu that lives in Kaya, I want to be your friend.

In order to move here we sold everything, including our home in America, besides a few personal items and books. Upon selling most of our belongings we donated the majority of our money to AFM to help get the orphanage built. We fully believe that God wants Mercy Children’s Home built so we obeyed Him, sold it all and moved. We don’t have thousands of shillings sitting in the bank. We aren’t rich and we aren’t fancy people, we never have been. To you, I know you see us and assume we have the money to meet your needs, but the truth is we don’t. We are here to help support orphans, widows and pastors. I wish we could pay all of the school fees for your kids, as we know a proper education is important. I wish we could put shoes on every set of feet. Jiggers are bad here and cause a lot of pain and many missed school days. I wish we could make sure not one person goes hungry. Sadly we just can’t meet these needs for everyone. We want to help you and we have helped some of you. We care about each and every one of you. But if we helped with every need we wanted to, then Mercy Children’s Home just wouldn’t be possible. We hate telling you hapana (no), we hate seeing needs that go unmet. Truthfully we hate not being able to fix things and meet needs for everyone here. We must focus first on the main reason we are here, to build and open Mercy Children’s Home. Once we get the children’s home built and operating I’m positive that we will start working on other ways to meet other needs here. One example being that we will be building 8 to 10 (or more) small apartments on the property to house widows in need. Another example is trying to figure out a way to get enough funds for a nearby school to be able to feed the kids lunch, because right now they can’t do that.

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You are NEVER just a photo opportunity. If it ever feels that way I’m sorry. When I first arrived in Kenya I took pictures often, but then I started feeling bad about it. See I never want you to feel like I’m here exploiting you. That’s not my heart, not my heart at all. But I do need to take pictures so I can share them with our support system. I need to share them so I can help bring awareness to the needs that we have here. So that our friends can see the beautiful faces of those who they are praying for. I love you all and truly want what is best for you. My only motive is to bring attention to the needs here so that more and more people can be helped.

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Lastly…eat with us…PLEASE (Godfrey, Pamella, Matrine, Evaline and Nickson, I’m looking at y’all)! I’m sure it is a cultural thing that we are served a meal and then left alone to eat, but we want to eat WITH you. We want to get to know you and for you to know us. We want to learn from you and about you. We aren’t here for just a little while, Kenya is now our home too. We aren’t going back to the United States to live, so please stop treating us as visitors and treat us just like you would anyone else. We aren’t special, not even a little, we are just one family that God chose to send here. When you come to our home for a meal we will all sit down, pray together and then eat. We will sit down and learn about and from each other. I have SO much to learn about Kenya and the way things are done here.

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What God Taught Me in 2016

God taught me a lot in 2016. We moved from the city out to the country to live on a farm. The country had been my heart’s desire for years and it finally happened. Living in the country, I felt the most peace I had ever experienced in my life (until I saw a snake). That was my happy place…within the first month there I couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere else. I could only see staying there, after all it was my happy place and I was really in need of the peace that place brought me. Our children truly loved it. They loved the animals, freedom and slower pace it brought to our family.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV

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I also did a lot of growing personally during that time. If you don’t know my background, I came from an abusive home. Many times as a child I wasn’t allowed to have my own feelings. I was too often told how to feel, told when to smile, and always told to get over “it”. “It” was usually some form of physical pain accompanied by verbal assault. Not really something you can just get over in a matter of seconds. My whole life, in one way or another, I had been hearing “get over it” without having the proper tools on how to get over it. Something about preparing to live in the country and actually living in the country on a farm was freeing. I feel like God used that time to teach me that I had a voice. He taught me that I had choices and that I could in fact make those choices without worrying about what others would think. In the end what mattered was what God thought. That had never really occurred to me before. Most of my adult life my choices have been thoroughly questioned by others. Maybe well meaning others, but generally I walked away feeling like I was stupid for whatever they were questioning me about. When you are 21 and get married to a man seven years older than you with 3 children then go on to have 6 children and adopt a teenager, you get ALL the questions, judgment and ridicule. So before moving to the farm it never really occurred to me that I only needed to consult my husband and my God. Really it was a weight off my shoulders. I needed not to worry about what others thought about me or the road that God was leading me down.

But the biggest and most important thing God taught me in 2016 was that I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was. I had this certain area in my life that I really struggled with for a while. By “struggled” I mean at one point I flat out refused to even consider doing what the Bible called me to do. Since I’ve gotten older and had a best friend guide me in this area I had grown a ton in the last few years. I bet if you had asked Jeff he would have even said I was doing a good job in this area. If you had asked me if I had that area down I would have said “yes”. But God showed me different and even then I argued with Him. For those of you that know me you know I can be pretty hard-headed, so the fact that I argued is probably no surprise to you. In April of 2016 when Jeff was on his mission trip to Kenya God and I had a little conversation. It went something like this.

Me-I really need to sleep can you please make me sleep?

Him-You need to let go and submit.

Me-…what? I am submissive.

Him-You need to stop holding him (Jeff) back.

Me-…WHAT? He’s in Kenya right now, I’m not holding him back, I just keep him level-headed.

Him-You need to let go and follow him.

Me-But I don’t want to move to Kenya.

Him-You need to stop holding him back and follow him.

I just wanted to sleep! My husband was 9,000 miles away, the dogs were barking, I was hearing noises, it was 4 am and I was starting to worry/freakout/panic. Instead of sleeping I was learning…learning that an area I thought I had “mastered” I was still weak in. Though I had grown leaps and bounds in that area I still needed more growth. So for the next several minutes I cried. I cried because I knew that meant I had to say goodbye to my happy place, friends and family. In that moment I knew we would be moving to Kenya. For me I feel like that is every area of my life…if I think I have it mastered then I’m just missing something. God taught me to always be looking to grow and learn more.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Kids’ Point of View

 

Now that we have actually moved to Kenya, I’m going to tell you what the kids think. It has been a huge change (as we were already expecting it would be) and we are still adjusting to the changes of culture, people, food, and all that sort of stuff. But, we are having a great time here and everyone is really nice. Some of us might say a little too nice, they treat us like royalty and it took a little while for us to get them to let us help with anything.

One of my favorite things here are the boda boda (dirt bike taxis) rides. The first time we rode on one I was pretty nervous. I just remembered all the times I had been told motorcycles were dangerous, even though boda bodas are much safer because they are slower and there isn’t as much traffic except in the city. So I wasn’t very excited. B and I were on the same boda boda, him in the middle between me and the driver. I told him that I was not about to be pressed up against someone I didn’t know. Thankfully that has only happened once. When the boda boda started moving, I was holding onto Brendan so tightly I don’t know how he wasn’t complaining. Then I realized it wasn’t so bad really. The only times I was nervous was when we were over bridges and when we rode through Bungoma, but I was watching the road the whole time to make sure the driver didn’t hit anything! Near the end of the ride, B and I were showing off by sticking our hands out acting like we were airplanes and giving Karson high-fives. Mom said we were being foolish so we had to stop doing that.

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Ava-Joy, Reed, and Caitlin on a boda boda

 

Speaking of Mom, her first boda boda ride was not so pleasant. She didn’t want to go on one in the first place. She had Reed and Ava-Joy riding in front of her and they all almost got hit by a herd of cows. It has become a family joke now. Sometimes we are on boda bodas now and we see a cow on the road we yell at Mom saying, “They’re out to get you!”

Karson said his favorite thing about Kenya is probably the animals. So far the only ‘exotic animals’ we have seen are zebras and gazelles. We saw them on our way from Nairobi to Pastor Kennedy’s house. Most of the animals we see here are cows, goats, pigs, and chickens.

The other day, we visited a lady’s house where she was raising rabbits. She had little baby bunnies that we held and fell in love with. When we asked her how much they were, she said 100 to 150 shillings. That is $1.00 to $1.50 each! We are planning on buying 5 or 6 of them. Daddy was teasing Mom, who loves bunnies, that he is going to name them Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, and Dessert.

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Karson holding a baby bunny. This one is “Lunch” 😉

 

Brendan loves to play soccer with the kids. The kids here really get into “football”. B will play with them every single day. He will come in for dinner covered in a layer of dirt from playing. The whole family will play sometimes. It’s really fun watching Karson play goalie. It is pretty funny seeing him out there in his big boots saying, in a Kenyan accent, “No goal. Hapana goal.” (Hapana means ‘no’ in Swahili.)

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Brendan gets very excited when his team scores!

 

Ava-Joy’s favorite thing is playing with the girls. Mom and Dad got a hula-hoop from a store here called Nakumatt (which is pretty much a small Walmart) and the kids here love it. Joy will have the girls wait in a line and they will all show off their hula-hooping skills.

Violet loved seeing the baby goats. When we were in Kaya visiting Mercy School the other day, Mom had mentioned seeing baby goats across the street. We decided to go see them. I thought it was funny that the family didn’t mind seeing strangers walking across their yard. The baby goats were very tiny and so cute! We each took turns holding the two babies and kept asking Daddy if he could buy us some. He assured us we can get some after AFM Mercy Children’s Home is built!

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Mom and Violet snuggling a baby goat

 

Aspen recently made a new friend named Pastor Godfrey. Ever since we moved here, Pastor Kennedy has tried to get Aspen to like him by greeting her with hugs and “My friend, my friend.”, but she has not been impressed. Then we visited Pastor Godfrey’s house and she immediately liked him. He held her once while speaking in front of his congregation and she will greet him before she greets Daddy. It is pretty cute.

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Aspen with her “friend Goffrey”

 

Reed agrees with me that the boda boda rides are really fun. He absolutely loves it! He will be riding between me and Ava-Joy and point out all of the cows saying, “Cow! They say moo.” then he will fall asleep. It is sometimes difficult to keep him from falling off because he keeps leaning to look around.

As I said before, we are still adjusting but it is pretty easy to love living here! I don’t think any of us regret leaving America, even if we miss our friends and family we left behind. From our family to yours, Christmas Njema! (Happy Christmas)

Our Large Family Bible Study

 

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Our parents want us kids to grow up understanding and wanting to learn more about the Bible. I find this to be a very important part of our everyday lives. I feel it is important because it makes us grow closer together as a family and closer to God.

What does Bible study with so many people at so many different ages look like? I will share a little bit of our controlled chaos with you. We generally do our study in the living room, but we’ve also done them outside by the fire and even in the park after playing some basketball.

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Family Bible Study outside by the fire

We start Bible study by doing a couple of worship songs chosen by us kids. Daddy hooks up his tablet to the T.V. and finds the songs with lyrics on YouTube. We then watch the video and sing along, sometimes the little girls will dance while singing. Worship is my favorite part and I usually have a few suggestions picked for when Dad asks us for ideas.

After worship, we take turns reading from the Bible. We all know that reading happens right after worship so there are always a few kids ready with their hands in the air hoping Daddy will notice them and call on them first. Sometimes Daddy has to gently remind them that he knows they want to read and they will get the chance to. Most of the time we read Proverbs “Proverbs of the day”, as we call it. This is when we read the chapter number that corresponds to that day. If we read a chapter a day, we are reading through the book of Proverbs every month.

Everyone gets to read, even Aspen (3 years old). Us older kids usually pair up with the ones who can’t read yet. The reader will whisper a few words at a time to the little one and then the little one will repeat it out loud so everyone else can hear. It is important to include everyone so that they will get excited about learning and won’t see Bible study as boring and unenjoyable.

The hardest part of Bible study is paying attention. Let’s say Daddy called on Karson to read the next ten verses. You know you are going next so you try really hard to keep up. Then Reed comes over and sits on your ankles and sticks one hand in the air saying “yah! yah!” pretending you are a horse. Then Aspen sits next to you with a pen trying to doodle on your Bible. While you try and pry the pen from her, Violet comes over and asks you to open her Bible to the correct spot because her Bible closed, again. By the time you focus on reading again, you have forgotten who was reading and then you notice everyone is looking at you expectantly.

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Reed playing horsey “Yah! Yah!”

We don’t always do Proverbs of the day though. Daddy sometimes has a sermon that he wants us to watch. The last sermon we watched was about modern Christian families. Voddie Baucham was talking about his views on marriage, discipline, and education. He said something that really stuck out to me. He said that only one kid out of ten stays a Christian after their freshman year of college. Only one out of ten! That is why studying the Bible every day is so important, not just on Sunday and Wednesday.

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Watching a sermon. Probably Matt Chandler, or Voddie Baucham, or Paul Washer, or…

After our Proverbs or sermon, we spend time going over what we learned and asking questions. It is very important that we understand what we learned so that we don’t have a confused and twisted interpretation of the Bible. Daddy is very good at answering any questions we have. Sometimes Bible study ends up being pretty long because Daddy loves to explain things…sometimes he gets very into it and gets pretty detailed by answering questions we hadn’t even thought to ask.

Nearly every  Bible study ends up in a discussion of the Gospel. We often discuss how great it will be spending eternity enjoying God and exploring the depths of the Gospel with Him and His Saints. Daddy also tries to help us understand that as children growing up in a family that spends alot of time in God’s Word and proclaiming the Gospel, we have a great responsibility to repent and believe the Gospel. We also are taught that repenting and believing are not one-time events, but rather continue in the life of the Christian. We are taught to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)

When we are done reading and we have all of our questions answered, we close in prayer and then sing Doxology. Every time without fail, Lala (Violet) volunteers to lead us. We memorized this song as a family a couple of years ago so we just sing it a capella, no need for YouTube.

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Pastor John Tino from Massailand, Kenya stayed a couple days with us and was gracious enough to join us for Family Bible Study.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:18-19

Special Dinner “Guests”

by Stephanie Bys:

Sunday we had 2 special dinner “guests”, but we were missing Jeff. Cory let me know on Friday that he and Rachel (his beautiful girlfriend) would have time to stop by on Sunday and eat dinner with us on their way back to Tulsa. For those of you who don’t know, Cory is our oldest, he attends Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey and is doing a Chaplin internship in Tulsa, OK this summer. Time with him is precious! When he is in Texas he has eleventy billion other people to see, hug, make smile and bless so we cherish any and all time with him. Cory is one of 16…yes he has 15 siblings total, so saying he is busy is an under statement!

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All day the kids talked about being bummed that Dad was going to miss our dinner. Usually if Cory is here Jeff is here, but he had something scheduled he couldn’t get out of. I also heard how excited they were about Cory and Rachel coming. If you are close to our family you know that our kids adore their oldest brother. They treat him as if he is a rock star, which he totally is to them. When he is coming over, our other kids can be found waiting by a window hoping to be the first one to yell out “CORY IS HERE, CORY IS HERE!!” All day long they checked the time, asked if he was almost here, even sat at the window 45 minutes early. I’m telling you these kids are dedicated! Today while all the chatter and excitement was happening I noticed something…I was hearing Rachel’s name as much as I was hearing Cory’s! “Rachel is coming, I can’t wait to see Rachel, Is Rachel almost here?” We haven’t had the chance to spend a lot of time with Rachel, but the time we have had with her has been wonderful! Our girls (me included) especially love her; she’s so much fun, does great hair styles for them and is always up for whichever direction they are dragging her in.

When Cory is coming I always ask what he wants to eat, he so not picky and will eat just about anything you put in front of him, just like his Dad. But I like to make whatever he wants when we have him home. Our time with him and Rachel is so special to us that I want him/them to feel special. I don’t know…I guess that’s just a Mom thing, anyways he requested Mexican food. I was super excited because I love Mexican food so much, but it always seem like a lot of work, read a lot of chopping. I will often skip toppings or skip Mexican food all together. Well not for Sunday night’s dinner! The kids and I decided that we would make tostadas with ALL the toppings. When making our grocery list we decided that we needed homemade salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, cilantro, cheese, jalapeños, sour cream and pico de gallo in addition to our refried beans and ground beef. We actually started chopping on Saturday to be ready for our big meal on Sunday. Five of the kids helped with making/chopping/preparing our  dinner. Dinner turned out great and I think everyone at least had seconds.

Once we were all nice and full from dinner, we had to have sopapilla Cheesecake! This happens to be Jeff’s very favorite dessert and Cory may have been taunting him via text about missing it.

When it was all said and done we had a little over 2 hours with these precious people. Instead of focusing on how brief the minutes were, we chose to celebrate the time we did have. Being just months away from leaving the country has helped us be more intentional with our time.

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Bys Family Fun Day!

 

Have you ever wondered what we do for fun? Well I want to show y’all what a Bys family fun day looks like! Yesterday Daddy was off work. That was unusual because he is usually only off Sunday and Monday, but we will take a random Thursday. When he is off, it automatically makes that day a family day and we try to do something fun together. Fun doesn’t always mean something off the farm, but yesterday it did. It was even more special because Quinn was home. We wanted to go and do something, so Mom and Dad (well, mostly Mom) planned a fun day for us.

While we ate breakfast Daddy told us the plans for the day. He said we were going to go to a splash pad, have a picnic lunch, then we were going to have a surprise, followed by dinner and a family movie at home. Dad kept calling it a surprise, but we all knew what it was because the splash pad was in Grapevine. Our favorite shaved ice place is also there. Everyone quickly got ready for the day. Even though we started our day early, we finally rolled out of the driveway at about 11:30. Large family problems at their finest, it always takes a little longer than expected to leave the house.

When we finally got to the splash pad Mom and Dad realized that the park was super busy and there was no shade so we decided to try another one that was about 10 minutes away. After several meltdowns (all the littles were ready to get wet) and getting everyone buckled in we realized we had no diaper bag. No diaper bag? How does that even happen? Finally, we got to the other splash pad and we immediately went to the water. It was super hot so the water felt great! Soon everyone was in the water except Aspen and Reed. Aspen isn’t technically afraid of the water but it still takes her a little while to get in. Reed, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of water. He won’t touch you if he knows you are wet.

By the time lunch was laid out on the table, everyone was drenched (except Reed). Lunch consisted of veggies, a fruit salad, mango, watermelon, pickles, olives and Daddy’s gourmet wraps. He said humbly that one taste of his gourmet wraps will ruin all other wraps for you. He thinks he’s so funny, he is always cracking a joke.

Lunch was finished quickly and everyone was back in the water. Mom decided to introduce Reed to the water. He was not too happy, but he wasn’t freaking out so there was some progress! Mom and I also “helped” Reed walk thru a water spraying arch, again not his favorite thing, but he tolerated it.

Some of us were spending time under this huge bucket that filled up with water and poured on you. Other kids had moved a few chairs directly under the spot the water hit, so we drug Daddy into a chair to wait with us.

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When we were done, we dried off by playing at the park that was next to the splash pad. This park was pretty cool and had many things to play on. Our favorite was a miniature zip line where we spent most of our time. We all took turns going, Reed even went on it with Daddy.

Family Day 4

We finished up our outing at a place called Hip Pop, which was our surprise dessert. They have shaved ice, slushes, and popscicles. Not only do they have the best shaved ice, they have syrups that they make with real fruit, organic sugar, and they don’t have corn in them. This is huge for our family because we have a corn allergy and it seems that corn is in all things, especially sweet things. Most of us got shaved ice or a slush, but Daddy chose an interesting cucumber lime jalapeño popscicle. That just sounds weird to me and Daddy ended up having to get several sips of water to stop the coughing from breathing in the jalapeño. 🙂

Family Day 3

We wrapped up the day with a dinner of  homemade hot wings, mashed potatoes, rice crispie treats and a family movie. Our day was busy, fun, hot and even chaotic at times, but we had a great day and made memories. By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted. (Yes, Quinn sleeps with his eyes open!)

Family Day

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (esv) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.